Developer experience (DevEx) isn't a new idea. In the past, it has been discussed in conjunction with engineering effectiveness and team performance, with engineering leaders generally agreeing that having a positive developer experience is beneficial.
More recently, a myriad of emerging frameworks and ideas have shown how we can measure DevEx in different ways, tying it directly to the performance of teams and the overall success of businesses. With such a wealth of information floating through the internet on this topic, how can you tell which elements of DevEx are most suitable for your company?
Below, five engineering leaders cut through the noise to explain why DevEx is more than a buzzword, and ways you can embrace and implement key practices in your own teams.
In our ever-evolving world of technology, DevEx is not just a buzzword – it's a paradigm shift, one that I've come to appreciate deeply in my journey as a systems engineer and now as a leader.
At its core, I think DevEx can be summarized as the ease, efficiency, and satisfaction with which developers can create, test, and deploy solutions using various tools and platforms.
Having implemented numerous systems that developers rely on, I've witnessed firsthand the difference a thoughtfully designed system can make. It's not just about creating tools; it's about creating the right tools that seamlessly integrate with a developer's workflow. These systems need to be intuitive, allowing developers to focus on what they do best: coding and innovating.
Besides the initial implementation of systems, facilitating learning to empower usage of said systems has further cemented my belief in DevEx's importance. I’ve learned that, by ensuring developers can optimize their use of tools, we not only streamline their tasks but also foster a culture of continuous improvement and knowledge sharing.
Leading organizations that focus on more specific DevEx nuances, like seamless migration processes, comprehensive documentation, and hardware upgrades, have been eye-opening. For instance, an initiative as seemingly simple as upgrading a developer's laptop with consideration to compatibility and performance can significantly improve their efficiency and morale. When developers have the resources they need, free from bottlenecks and lag, their productivity surges.
In summary, prioritizing DevEx isn't merely an engineering strategy; it's a business strategy. By focusing on DevEx, we don't just aid developers; we set the stage for innovations that can redefine industries. Every system integration, every training session, and every organizational effort aimed at improving DX is an investment in a better, brighter, and technologically driven future.
The goal of DevEx is to make developer work as frictionless and enjoyable as possible so that developers can spend as much of their time as possible producing high-quality code, solving technical issues, and addressing customer challenges. In turn, this means that organizations can quickly respond to customer and business needs and quality improvements.
Developer satisfaction will also improve, positively impacting retention. Over time, news of this high level of satisfaction will filter through the industry, attracting stronger talent to the company’s hiring pool.
Additionally, customer satisfaction will increase because a company’s products will be more reliable and of a higher quality. A great DevEx usually includes automation, first-class tools, and effectively embedded quality processes in the developer workflow which all contribute to issues being caught and resolved early.
As time goes on, organizations will always evolve their development platform and toolset. Whether it is a small change like a Java framework update or a massive change like moving to cloud-native development, your developers, and how they work, will be impacted in some way.
A focus on DevEx will ensure that such technology changes are introduced with the right focus on developer adoption and development efficiency, resulting in less change pain and minimized business impact.
To me, DevEx is the overall satisfaction of software developers when they engage with the tools, technologies, and processes they rely on every day. It encompasses the journey to making the lives of developers easier and more enjoyable, enabling them to focus on creating high-quality software, without unnecessary friction or obstacles.
When developers are content with their tools and workflow, they can focus on creating robust, performant, and innovative solutions. On the contrary, a frustrating DevEx may lead to rushed work, unhappy teams, and a decline in the software's overall performance and usability.
To demonstrate how to implement DevEx practices, I find it helpful to refer to the analogy of a gourmet cooking experience where the recipe for building software becomes an enjoyable journey for developers.
Similar to a well-organized kitchen, stocked with all of the ingredients and high-end cookware you need, a feast of well-documented application programming interfaces (APIs), seamless testing and integration processes, and an intuitive user interface is a developer’s ideal working environment.
Just as following a step-by-step recipe is simple and straightforward, DevEx strives to optimize workflows, eliminating unnecessary complexity, and streamlining repeatable tasks.
Finally, where a restaurant's reputation thrives on satisfied customers, a positive DevEx also fosters a strong developer community that can play a significant role in attracting and retaining top talent. Developers are more likely to be drawn to organizations that prioritize their experience, recognizing that productive tooling ensures they can savor the joy of coding, free from the frustration of clunky tools or processes.
Have you or your team ever joined a project and spent hours or days trying to set up their local environment just to figure out you were missing a library? Or tried to fix a bug that manifested in production, but couldn’t really be replicated in your local setup? What about spending hours trying to upgrade or integrate a library because of conflicting versions of dependencies?
As a developer or engineering leader, you have probably experienced situations like these that have cost you both time and mental energy you didn’t have.
For me, DevEx is about focusing on identifying those low-value-add tasks and making them easier and quicker to execute, freeing up engineers to work on projects they really care about.
It’s an enablement practice that allows engineering teams to spend more time on delivering direct value to their customers and less time on activities such as discovering documentation or APIs, executing migrations, configuring CI/CD pipelines, setting up monitoring, setting up local environments, fixing vulnerabilities, upgrading libraries, and writing post mortems.
As user experience (UX) is to the user, so is DevEx to the developer. From the moment users log on to our product, we want them to have a smooth ride, achieving their tasks seamlessly, efficiently, and in the shortest time possible.
With the concept of DevEx, we do the same for developers. We ensure that in the process of implementing their tasks (for instance, building and shipping features, or debugging, finding, creating, and updating documentation) they have all the tools they need to move quickly, efficiently, and joyfully.
Yes, the element of joy is important. It is indeed a developer’s delight to be able to get work done without being blocked by a slow CI/CD pipeline, an unreliable test suite, missing documentation, or a long booting dev/test environment. The knowledge that processes and workflows would constantly be iterated to achieve seamlessness is elating.
When developers are adequately supported and there is an enabling environment to voice out their needs and frustrations, they become more innovative. This eventually translates to increased customer satisfaction, not to mention, the added benefit of developer retention.